Imagine sitting in a draft room looking up at a dry erase board. You see names of possible draft picks that could potentially become huge stars at the big league level just as easily as they could become potential busts. The job of an organization is to choose players that are expected to have the brightest futures. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. The Pittsburgh Pirates are an organization that knows a little bit too much about both sides of this spectrum. Though they have experienced the lows that a draft can bring, in recent years, they have had success loading up their farm teams with young talent through the draft.


We all remember the list of highly touted first round draft picks that didn’t live up to the hype or the expectations. Players such as Kris Benson, a first overall pick in 1996, Bryan Bullington, first overall in 2002, and Daniel Moskos, fourth overall in 2007, were all first round selections by the Pirates that didn’t exactly produce in the way the organization had hoped. However, the organization has also had success in drafting players that are currently making an impact with the big league club. Some former Pirates first round picks including Neil Walker, an 11th overall pick in 2004, Andrew McCutchen, 11th overall in 2005, and Gerrit Cole, first overall in 2011, are all key players for a Pirates team that currently sits tied for second place in the National League Central with the Chicago Cubs. It is players like these that you search for in the draft, but finding them and developing them is not as easy as it may seem.

The Major League Baseball draft is unlike any other draft in professional sports. The fact that there are so many rounds and opportunities for prospects to be drafted is a main difference, but there is also a level of uncertainty surrounding the young athletes taken in the draft. When selecting a player, scouts and general managers never truly know what to expect. It is easy to judge a players talent level, but no one really knows what their future holds. In fact, sorry to bring up some bad facts to this year’s first overall pick Dansby Swanson, but no first overall pick in Major League History has ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Many current major league stars have been selected number one overall in recent years including Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, but this proves that it doesn’t always matter where a prospect is picked, but rather how they take advantage of the opportunity after being selected. Many of baseball’s all time greats were chosen in the late rounds on their respective draft day, but were able to have stellar careers. Players such as Nolan Ryan, a 12th round pick in 1965, Ryne Sandberg, a 20th round selection in 1978, and Mike Piazza, a 62nd round pick in 1988, have all gone on to establish themselves as some of the greatest players in Major League History. This is what makes the draft so interesting. It is unknown what you truly have and what a young talent can truly do until they are given a chance.

A chance is all these young players ask for. Unlike the drafts in the NBA and NFL, Major League Baseball prospects are not guaranteed the opportunity to play in the big leagues. Prospects can spend years in minor leagues before getting a chance to step foot in a major league ballpark. With hard work and determination, only the players themselves can create their path to playing baseball at the highest level.

Last night, the latest crop of future prospects were announced at the 2015 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. In a draft that included an abundance of shortstop prospects including Swanson, the Pirates selected Arizona Wildcats shortstop Kevin Newman with the 19th overall selection. After picking Cole Tucker with the 24th overall selection in last year’s draft, this marks the second consecutive year that the Pirates have selected a shortstop in the first round. Though it was projected that the Bucs might attempt to draft a pitching prospect with this selection, they took a player that has a decent upside and pure talent at the dish. Though he doesn’t have a lot of power at the plate, Newman is a pure hitter who can consistently hit for a high average. In his last two seasons in the Cape Cod League, Newman won two consecutive batting titles, a feat that has never been achieved by another player. While playing at the University of Arizona this season, Newman hit .370 with two home runs, 36 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 55 games, while being named a first-team Pac-12 selection. It is still yet to be known if Newman will remain at shortstop while playing at the next level, but with the talent he has at the plate, he could be a top prospect in the Pirates farm system for years to come.
The Pirates did not have to wait too long to make their next selection, which happened to be a good one. With the 32nd overall pick, a selection they received as compensation for Russell Martin signing with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Pirates selected Third Baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, the son of former major league outfielder Charlie Hayes. Hayes was projected to be a first round pick who could’ve even been a top ten overall pick. He slid on the draft board to the Bucs, and they immediately took advantage of the opportunity to select him. Hayes seems like a solid line drive hitter who can definitely be coached up to be even better at the next level. Unlike Newman, Hayes is a high school prospect who is committed to playing college baseball at the University of Tennessee. It will be interesting to see if he decides to begin his college career in Knoxville or if he will begin his professional career with the Pirates organization.

With their second round selection, the Pirates took another college position player, selecting UCLA Shortstop/Third Baseman Kevin Kramer with the 62nd overall pick. Despite missing the entire 2014 season due to surgery on a torn labrum, Kramer had a decent career with the Bruins. He was a vital member of the 2013 National Championship team and spent time playing at both third base and shortstop, proving his versatility and willingness to play at different positions. Kramer is also a solid producer at the plate as well. In 2015, Kramer hit .328 with 31 RBIs and was named a PAC-12 All-Conference selection. He led the Bruins with 76 hits in 2015 and the fact that he has played at a high level after missing a whole year proves that he is healthy, which is a good sign for the organization.
Though the futures of these young players can be somewhat unpredictable, there is no doubt that they have entered an organization that gives them an incredible chance to have success. These three recent selections will now join the talented crop of young offensive prospects in the minor league system that includes the likes of Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire and Alen Hanson. Though it is unknown what the future holds for Newman, Hayes and Kramer, one thing is for certain. Based on their pure talent, they have given the organization an instant indication that the first day of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft was a success.

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